From Raleigh, North Carolina, the dual-guitar foursome Demon Eye rode out of the gate strong on the songwriting of their first full-length, 2014’s Leave the Light (review here), a straightforward but still atmospherically-minded collection of cultish-themes and prime riffs that was likewise unpretentious and preaching to the genre-converted. The inevitable sophomore outing, also released on Soulseller Records, is Tempora Infernalia, which follows suit from its predecessor in its thematic — though one could argue the cult vibes are less direct here — and overall sonic foundation. There are shades of Pentagram-style doom with Uncle Acid‘s newer-modus swing, though it irons out to an able execution of doom rock either way, and Tempora Infernalia is at very least that.
Its 40 minutes/10 tracks are efficiently constructed and come out clean even as they seem to revel in dirt, guitarists Erik Sugg (also vocals) and Larry Burlison (lead), bassist/vocalist Paul Walz and drummer/vocalist Bill Eagen resounding in their cohesion as the record plays out, Sugg and Burlison leading the charge from opener “End of Days” onward, a ’70s boogie meeting early in uptempo pulse with doomly roll, the vocals furthering the retro vibe that’s balanced throughout with modernity of production. And that’s pretty much the story. Demon Eye are obviously capable songwriters, as they proved their first time out, and they have a clear idea of what they want to do with their sound, which they demonstrate plainly on these tracks in a manner that leaves very little room for argument.
And accordingly, I won’t argue against it. What I will say is that Tempora Infernalia feels like it was released a year after their debut, which of course it is. The actual timeline on when songs were written for both doesn’t really matter, what I’m talking about is more the level of progression between the two albums. Demon Eye started out knowing what they wanted to do, and with Tempora Infernalia, they’re doing it a second time. Cuts like “Listen to the Darkness” and side B’s shuffling “In the World, Not of It” are more than capable executions — the latter especially is a highlight that shifts the tempo slightly from the classic metallurgy of “Poison Garden” before it — but aren’t much more assured of their position than were “Edge of a Knife” or “Fires of Abalam” on the debut.
The kicker there is the debut was already plenty assured, but for a band who hit the ground running in paying off the potential shown on their initial 2013 EP (all six songs from which were reused on the first album), one almost went into Tempora Infernalia expecting leaps and bounds from where they were a year ago, whereas the band’s project seems to be more centered around building a catalog of steady growth from one release to the next. Not an issue with the songs here — they even change things up in their approach with the “Solitude”-style penultimate placement of “Please, Father” before closer “Sons of Man” delivers the album’s nastiest hook — so much as with the context through which one enters into hearing them, but as someone who was impressed by the first record, the second stands behind it and affirms its motion rather than blowing it out of the water with the progression from one to the next.
That’s not to say Demon Eye haven’t grown at all in the last year. Leave the Light garnered fervent praise from underground circles, and the band accordingly took on the ’70s ethic of a quick follow-up. Fair enough. The vaguer threat of “I’ll be Creeping” and the speedy swing of “Black Winds” show a broader range for Tempora Infernalia and a willingness to try different ideas across a full-length span, while “See the Signs” reaffirms the craftsmanship that’s been the root of their appeal all along. Across the board, performances are air-tight, Sugg emerging as a frontman presence while not overplaying his hand in that regard, and the production and mixing of Alex Maiolo at Seriously Adequate Studio in NC are crisp in a way that adds to the momentum built as the record plays out.
A less-directly Satanic theme feels like a purposeful drive away from what they were doing on Leave the Light, and on repeat listens its blend of elder metal and newer heavy comes across as even more engaging, so while Demon Eye haven’t reinvented their or anyone else’s wheel with Tempora Infernalia, neither did they need to. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a steady path that mirrors the linear feel of their songwriting to produce a catalog of growth over a longer-term and more records. Whatever their method, all Tempora Infernalia really makes one do after listening to it is hope they keep working, however quickly they might or might not do so from here.